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Indiana Head Football Coach Tom Allen Monday Press Conference 11.16.2020

by | Nov 16, 2020 | Football Blogs, Headlines | 0 comments

Head Coach Tom Allen
ALLEN: I appreciate everybody being here first of all. Really proud of our football team and coaching staff, the job they were able to do at Michigan State getting a very important win for us, bringing back the Brass Spittoon, which is the first trophy game we have had this season, so really proud of our players for that. Did not feel like we finished well offensively, especially in the red zone, but cleaned up some things on special teams, we were not as sharp in that area, but overall, we did a lot of positive things. A chance to go on the road and get a shutout, which is a tough thing to do, so I am really proud of our defense for accomplishing that. They created some great takeaways and scored 17 points off of those takeaways. Those were very important things to continue to do and getting four more of those is very important, very big. Then also just being able to control the tempo, the clock with 40 minutes of time possession for our offense really takes its toll, then having a seven-and-a-half-minute drive at the end to be able to finish off the game was also very important. To able to run that football in those situations was good. Did not feel like we ran the ball as effectively. I would like for us to, in the other parts of the game. But it is down to execution. I think we have to continue to point to those details and focus on them throughout the week. So, I just want to recognize some players for their play as we do each week. We had the defensive scouts of the week; the guys gave us a tremendous look. It is paramount to our preparation on both sides of the ball, and special teams. So, defensive scout team plays of the week Nicholas Grieser and Liam Zaccheo. Offensive scout team players of the week Ricky Tamis and McCall Ray, and the special teams scouts of the week, Connor Hole and Chris Childers. Those guys have done an excellent job. A lot of guys are nominated by the coaches for those awards and just shows you the buy in and the unselfishness of our team is at a really high level right now. Offensively, Ty Fryfogle was our player of the game, he was also the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, which is a great team award for their effort as an offense. Then defensively, Micah McFadden and Tiawan Mullen were the defensive players of the game. Micah had three sacks, a whole bunch of tackles and just played his tail off. Tiawan finally got himself a couple picks. He knocked down a bunch of balls over the last year, but got the first two of his career. And AJ Barner was our special teams player of the game. So, just have got to continue to improve, have got to continue to elevate our attention to detail and our execution in those critical moments to close out games. But proud of our team to be able to come home with an important road win and get us to 4-0, and now turn our attention to the Ohio State Buckeyes. Just a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Day and the job he continues to do there in Columbus. Excellent football team, arguably the best quarterback in the country in Justin Fields. Special player playing at a high level right now and surrounded by a receiver core that is good as anybody in the country, and excellent running backs, very physical offensive line and defensively they are just as usual, playing really, really hard. Defensive line is extremely dominant, very physical, athletic linebacker core that we have seen the last several years. A lot of experience there, continuing to play at a high level in their secondary. Anchored by Shaun Wade. Just elite players that are well coached and extremely talented. Their specialists are always good, their special teams play is always at a high level. There is a reason why they are where they are, defending Big Ten champions. But it is a great opportunity for our program. We have worked really hard to get this point and we will have to play our very best football Saturday in Columbus. Questions.

Q.  On distractions going into the week…
ALLEN: They just need to be a little bit thicker. As that noise grows louder you have to continue to stay focused on what got us here and the process of improving. We are still not where we need to be, in all three areas, so to me any level of complacency that settles in or anything that prevents you from continuing to improve and prevents you from staying locked in and focused is detrimental to what we are trying to accomplish. I think it is just our whole coaching staff, it is our leaders on our team, it is our captains, our leadership council guys, everybody understanding the maturity that it takes to stay locked in and stay focused, and be able to understand that there is a part of the success where you have to talk about it. You will have media obligations and things that are positive, but you have to be able to compartmentalize the past games and what those have created, and then understand that the focus and attention to. detail has to be at a high level if you are going to continue to improve and continue to play well against better and better teams. So, to me that is the key. There is no real secret to it that any other place has not had to go through in these situations. We just have not had it happen here in recent history. We need to learn how to handle that and mange that if we want to be a Top-10 football program.

Q. On Ohio State QB Justin Fields…
ALLEN: Yeah, you watch him at length like we already have and we will continue to. He is just extremely poised. He has tremendous arm talent. That is step number one. Guys that have such a quick release allows him to be able to throw the ball where he wants to throw it in a very quick manner. The arm strength you do not have much time to react to that. That is a big variable and protection, he has a really good offensive line in front of him to get him out in space. He moves around. He makes people miss in regards to it is really hard to get on the ground, even if a guy comes clean. When you have time and you got excellent receivers that have pretty big catch radius, great athletes that can jump, they get a lot of separation naturally. It makes those windows a lot wider. You want those windows to be tight, defensively. You want them to be small and you want to be able to get hands on balls and you want to get pressure on the quarterback and you want to be able to make them feel flustered and make bad decisions and it is hard. It is really hard and he has had a ton of success throwing the ball. I mean, you know he has gotten better. You watch him from last year to this year and I thought he was the difference last year. After we played him, I was so impressed with him definitely before but even more so after. He is a special talent and there is a reason why he is arguably the best quarterback in the country. You have to, like every other quarterback, that you have to affect them in some way. They have to feel uncomfortable whether that is not necessarily sacking them multiple times, that would be a bonus, but not giving him clean windows to throw in and making him have to move and then not get his feet set and be able to disrupt their timing and their flow and make those windows harder to read and react when the ball is snapped. It will be a tremendous challenge for our defense. Definitely the biggest test we have had this year.

Q. On the need to win the line of scrimmage…
ALLEN: Absolutely. I do not think you can overstate the value of that because it all starts and stops there. If you cannot establish physicality at the line of scrimmage, that makes running the football very difficult and then throwing the football very difficult as well. There is a reason why we emphasize that area and everybody else does too. You have to be able to control the line of scrimmage, have a little physicality there and it has to continue. We have to continue to elevate, build off of what we have done in the past and rise to the challenge. To me that is what this is about, is opportunity for our offensive line to elevate their game, elevate their level of execution and physicality against one of the best in the country. That is definitely a huge portion of this and it is going to be true on both sides of the football. Our defensive line versus their offensive line and their D-line versus ours. That is the matchup that will probably be at the focal point of both sides of the ball’s success.

Q: On Michael Penix Jr.’s excitement level to play Ohio State…
ALLEN: Oh, he is excited. Yeah. I mean you are right he did not get a chance to play last year or the year before. So this will be his first opportunity against the Ohio State Buckeyes. When you come to Indiana and you play in this conference, you want to be a program that has the chance to win championships. It has gone to Columbus here for a long, long time, so no different this year, and he has a chance to play against some of the best players in America.

Q: On Tim Baldwin Jr. getting playing time…
ALLEN: He has earned our trust and I think that that is the key. You have watched him in practice. He has been a very good practice player, even though he is young, and so you just want to reward guys for that. I think that you want to try and get him touches so he has got some experience in game situations. If that is something that needs to happen in the future, then we will be able to do that. But yeah, I think he is a guy that has earned that by the way he has prepared and that to me is a big deal. We want to really do a good job as a staff of rewarding guys for that and hold them accountable for their practice habits and when they are doing it the right way and doing it at a high level, then we would love to give them a chance to go out and see what they got on game day. Tim is a guy that we need. You never can have enough depth at any position. You never know what the future is going to hold. And so I was glad he was able to go out there and he did exactly what I expected him to do, which was execute at a high level.

Offensive Coordinator Nick Sheridan
Q. On building a rhythm in the passing game…
SHERIDAN: I think we are improving in that area. There are still more opportunities for us to execute at a higher level and be more consistent at the same time. We did a nice job in the first half. We had about 350 yards of total offense, 300 yards passing in the first half. Give credit to our players for doing a nice job. Obviously, Michael Penix Jr. and Ty Fryfogle had a nice day. But as a coach, you look at the game as a whole and you feel that there were moments, especially in the second half and in the red zone, where I did not do a good enough job. You are able to look at it and identify the things you made progress with and did a nice job with, but ultimately you are trying to address the issues that you had. That starts with me and how I can put our players in a better position to be successful. Specifically, in the red zone in the second half. If we would have executed and coached on my end and put our players in better positions with the play call in the second half, I think we would be feeling differently than we did on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday. I am excited for our players, and we always enjoy winning, but at the same time we know that we have to be a lot better in those areas and it starts with me.

Q. On confidence in the offense…
SHERIDAN: I think our players and our staff are confident. We earned that through our hard work. Ultimately anything that has happened in previous weeks, last year’s game, those things have no impact on the game this Saturday. You start over each and every week. You have to prove it each and every week. You have to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your own team and of your opponent and how you can put your players in the best positions to be successful. When you are playing the caliber of a team that we are this weekend, there are very little weaknesses that they have. So, you are spending tireless hours trying to find the best edge you can have to put your players in the best position to be successful. I know that we will go into the game confident on Saturday. We have a tremendous amount of respect for the program, team and the coaching staff that we are going against this weekend. But we have to earn it. Today as a staff we have to put together a good plan and tomorrow in practice as a unit. The games that have happened here the past couple of weeks will not have any impact on the game on Saturday. Certainly, establishing an identity and comfortability with one another will help as the season progresses, but specifically to the opponent we are going against, we know that we are going to have to earn it and that starts with having a great Monday.

Q. On the play of the short-handed offensive line…
SHERIDAN: I think Luke Haggard did a nice job. There are always things that we need to get better at and improve on. Luke did a nice job and had to play the whole game. I was proud of the way he competed. I think he was coached and prepared for the moment. That is a credit to him and Coach Darren Hiller. We coach them all as a unit. The expectation is for the position not the individual. Our tackles have an expectation and a standard here at Indiana to play at a certain level. We feel that Luke did a nice job, but there are things that he needs to improve on and get better at. I was proud of those guys for stepping in and helping us win. We mentioned that it was not perfect by any stretch of an imagination. We turned the ball over twice and we were not very good in the red area. There were also a lot of moments when we did a nice job. We were able to move the ball and score points. The whole group, myself included, needs to continue to improve and be a little more consistent. But to your point, I was proud of Luke and happy for him that he was able to contribute and help our team win. That is for all the guys across the front. That was a strong front, they were physical. I thought those guys battled and competed.

Defensive Coordinator Kane Wommack
On the growth of Micah McFadden
WOMMACK: It is fun to able to see somebody go through the progression of maturity on and off the field as a player. To get to see that, and then also in the way he has gone about his business and getting better as a player. Early on, he was a guy that was just a playmaker that we put out there on the field and he would line up and go chase the ball down. Now we get to see his skillset develop fundamentally with his understanding of the game, understanding of our concepts, recognizing situations and what offenses are doing. His production has continued to climb. As a coach it is very rewarding to get to walk a guy though that going on three years. That is certainly the most that I have gotten to do.

Q. On the play of the defensive tackles…
WOMMACK: I am pleased with that group and the production that they are having. When you can hold someone to 13 yards then 60 yards in our last two Big Ten games there are some unsung heroes in there. We do not talk about those guys a lot because of the flash that you see from our linebackers and defensive backs. There is a physicality that is happening up front with our defensive line. I credit coach Kevin Peoples and what he is doing with that unit, like their ability to play with their hands and get off blocks. We are seeing that they are being more effective. I was pleased that we took the next step in our pass rush and I thought they did a nice job of holding some good leverages on third down and executing what we are trying to get done. We have to do a better job on first and second down pass rush just in terms of keeping the quarterback in the pocket. Certainly, this upcoming week that will be as important as ever.

Q. On James Head Jr. and the Ohio State offense…
WOMMACK: I am pleased with James. He has continued to work his tail off and get better at what he does. He is just really focused on his role. To me he is a guy that is starting to produce in our defense and it has been rewarding for all of us to see him do those things. When you talk about effecting the quarterback with our pass rush, I think you look at what we have been able to do on the outside. You look at James against Michigan. He was able to win a one-on-one matchup and come off the edge to get a sack. We have to be able to do more of those things as we progress. I think what makes Justin Fields so dynamic is his ability to extend plays. His eye progression is good, he sees the coverage, he can recognize things and work through the progression offensively. At the time I think he has elite pocket awareness. His ability to feel the pocket, escape at times or just extend the plays longer makes him a very special quarterback. That is something we have to do a great job of, finding a way to affect him and our defensive ends will be a key piece to that.

QB Michael Penix Jr.
Q. On managing the hype…
PENIX: To us, it is a 1-0 mindset. Coach Allen says every week that it is the biggest game. It is the biggest game on the schedule simply because it is the next game on the schedule. We do not look too far ahead. As long as we prepare and come out and execute at a high level, we have the talent, we have the team that can go out and show the skills that we have through all of the things that we have done it practice. We have a chance to do special things each week. It is something that we focus on, we just need to continue to play our game.

Q. On confidence of winning against ranked teams earlier this season…
PENIX: We have a lot of confidence. It is great that we did those things. Going into those weeks, we prepared to the extreme. Everyone was prepared to go out and execute. That is what we did in those big-time moments. That is all that it will take this week. We need to come out and prepare to make sure we have great practices this week. We need to play our game. We are not focused on the hype or the rankings, we are just trying to control what we can control. We need to go out and play Indiana football, tough, physical football, and that is what we are going to do each and every week.

Q. On his recruitment…
PENIX: I was committed to Tennessee in my junior year when coach Nick Sheridan and coach Mike DeBord were there. I have always known those guys. When I first got here, they were both here. Coach Sheridan kept that relationship, kept communicating and always believed in me. When everything went down with Tennessee, Coach Sheridan was always there. He stayed true and never left my side. I trusted him. When I came up here, I listened to coach Tom Allen. The way he speaks and the amount of love he has for this team, it was a wonderful feeling. When I got here, it just felt like home. This was the place I wanted to be.